Saunas and steam rooms. Tropical vacations. Hot yoga. These things are fine for people, but significantly less so for computers. As a general rule, computers do not like being hot — and when they heat up, bad things can happen. That’s why it’s so crucial to learn how to check your CPU temperature. And once you’ve figured out how to do that, you’ll want to continue monitoring your CPU temp over time so that it doesn’t overheat in the future. Read all about both of these processes right here.
By the way, the same applies to your mobile phone. If your phone is getting too hot, that may be a sign that you’ve got a problem on (in?) your hands.
How to check your CPU temperature
Here, we’ll show you how to check your CPU temperature in Windows 10. If you’re still using Windows 7, these steps will work as well.
You’ve got two options at this stage: check your CPU temp with a dedicated monitoring program — the simpler option — or figure it out on your own in your computer’s UEFI/BIOS settings. We’ll show you both ways.
Check your CPU temperature with monitoring software
Intel and AMD, two popular CPU manufacturers, both offer CPU monitoring software for their products. For an all-purpose solution, you can try Core Temp, a popular and free third-party option. Many people use it while stress-testing their CPU — a process in which you run your computer at full speed for a prolonged period of time to evaluate its performance and check its reliability under high load and temperature. Here’s how to use Core Temp on your computer:
- Download Core Temp and install it. Note that unless you uncheck the corresponding box during installation, the program will also install a desktop shortcut for a browser game called Goodgame Empire.
Installing Core Temp will also open a helpful .TXT document with detailed instructions on using the program.
- Open Core Temp and focus on the bottom of the window, where it says “Core #0”. Depending on how many CPU cores your computer has, your window may look slightly different than ours.
If you want to view your readings in Fahrenheit, you can find that option in Options > Settings > Display.
- Moving from left to right, Core Temp tells you four important things about the temperature of each CPU core:
- The current temperature
- The minimum recorded temperature
- The maximum recorded temperature
- The current workload percentage
Check your CPU temperature in your UEFI/BIOS
The BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is a behind-the-scenes area of your operating system that contains your firmware settings. In newer computers running Windows 10, the BIOS has been replaced with an updated counterpart known as UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). Functionally, UEFI and BIOS are the same.
If you have an older machine, you can access your BIOS by pressing a specific key or key combination as your computer boots. Usually, this is F12, F2, Esc, or Delete — your computer will tell you during its bootup process what to press to open BIOS (or Setup).
On newer computers, you can reach your UEFI by opening the Windows menu in the lower-left corner of your screen, clicking Power, holding the Shift key, and selecting Restart. Your computer will reset and display a series of menus: choose Troubleshoot > Advanced options > UEFI Firmware Settings, then click Restart.
Checking your temps in the UEFI/BIOS is inconvenient for a couple of reasons. For one, your computer needs to restart, which means that you’ll need to stop whatever else you’re doing. Also, you can’t monitor your temps over time in the UEFI/BIOS — you’ll see only a one-time snapshot. That’s why we recommend using a software option while Windows is up and running.
How to monitor your CPU temperature over time
Checking your temps once is nice, but it’s not going to provide you with much useful information. To get a fuller picture of your computer’s health, you’ll want to monitor your CPU temperature over time.
This is especially important when performing long intensive tasks, such as video rendering or playing resource-hungry video games. Direct sunlight can also heat things up quickly, so be sure to use a laptop temperature monitor when computing outdoors.
Since UEFI/BIOS can’t function as a long-term PC temperature monitor, you’ll need a software solution. Again, we’ll use Core Temp here as our Windows 10 temperature monitor. Here’s how to set that up:
- With Core Temp installed, click the small upward-pointing arrow in your taskbar to view your background applications.
- The multicolored numbers at the top represent the current temperatures of your CPU cores. You can check them here anytime you like, or click and drag them to the taskbar to display them permanently.
- To conserve space in your taskbar, you can elect to view only the highest temperature at any given time. In Core Temp, head to Options > Settings > Notification Area, then select Highest temperature per processor.
Monitoring CPU temps in fullscreen mode
You can’t view your taskbar while fullscreening a game or movie, so we’ll need another solution if you’d like to keep an eye on your CPU temps during those activities. Bundled with the GPU overclocking utility MSI Afterburner is a nifty little tool called RivaTuner, which will let you display your CPU temps even while in fullscreen mode.
You can also download RivaTuner on its own, but its developer recommends that you run it together with MSI Afterburner for optimal performance. Here’s how to get it set up for fullscreen temperature monitoring:
- After installing MSI Afterburner and RivaTuner, open your background apps and click on the MSI Afterburner icon.
- Open the Settings and navigate to the Monitoring tab. Scroll down and click CPU Temperature, then select the box for Show in On-Screen Display.
- Switch to the On-Screen Display tab and choose a hotkey configuration that you’ll use to bring up your monitoring data. Anytime you’re in a fullscreen app, you can input your hotkeys to view your CPU temps.
Is my CPU too hot?
All this talk of checking and monitoring is fine, but what is a normal CPU temp anyways? The techniques we just covered will serve you far better if you know which CPU temps are too high, and what a normal operating range looks like.
Under typical circumstances, even while performing strenuous tasks like playing a cutting-edge video game, you’ll want to see temperatures between 40 and 65 degrees Celsius, or 104 and 149 degrees Fahrenheit for our American friends. Anything within that window is normal and fine.
Depending on your device and CPU model, this range may vary. For example, in a high-end, custom-built gaming PC with loads of expensive cooling equipment, temps of around 50 degrees Celsius (122°F) are not unusual. A powerful laptop, on the other hand, might run at around 75 degrees Celsius (167°F), due to the limited space and cooling options.
When pushed near its limits, CPU temps can exceed 80 degrees Celsius (176°F). This isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, but don’t let your computer remain at this heat level for long if you can avoid it, or you may experience performance slowdowns. Extended gaming sessions can also stress your graphics processing unit (GPU), so be aware that you’ll want to check and monitor your GPU temperature as well. This is especially important if you’ve installed a high-end GPU designed for optimal gaming performance, since you’ll likely be playing for hours at a time.
Sustained heat of over 90 degrees Celsius (194°F) can cause physical damage to your CPU, so if you’re seeing numbers like that for several consecutive days, take steps to reduce the strain you’re putting on your CPU.
Does CPU temperature affect performance?
As mentioned above, your computer can and will likely slow down if you run it at high temperatures for sustained periods of time. At temperatures of 90 degrees Celsius (194°F) and above, your CPU may self-throttle, or regulate its own activity, in order to reduce the generation of additional heat. In some cases, this can cause your 3 GHz processor to throttle down to 800 MHz, for example, significantly reducing your performance. Some CPUs may shut down entirely to avoid permanent damage from the high temperatures.
That’s why it’s crucial to monitor your CPU temps on a daily basis. It’s especially useful if you’re planning to boost your computer’s performance via a CPU overclock. Overclocking is a popular technique to coax more power out of a gaming computer, but it comes at the cost of increased temperatures. We’d all love to run GTA V at optimal graphical fidelity and frame rates, but hardware has its limits.
Without sufficient cooling measures, you might run into trouble if you push things too far. That’s why so many custom-built gaming PCs use water cooling to increase performance. Since temperatures can directly impact performance, you’ll need to control your computer’s heat output in order to speed up your computer.
Also, many types of malware place a heavy strain on your CPU, leading to an increase in temperature. Always use a reliable antivirus tool like AVG AntiVirus FREE to detect, block, and remove malware from your computer.
How to lower your CPU temperature
As a first step to lowering your CPU temp, improve the airflow to your computer. Place your laptop on a smooth, firm surface like a table or desk (not your bed!). The same goes for your desktop PC: keep it off the carpet. Also consider using a laptop cooling stand to supply your laptop with a steady stream of air. Most important, air cooling relies on the air outside your computer being cooler than the air inside it, so minimize your computer use if your environment is too hot.
With a bit of elbow grease and a careful hand, you can perform some simple computer surgery to bring your old PC back into tip-top shape and keep its temperatures down. Use a can of compressed air to clear any dust from the fans and vents, and replace your CPU’s thermal paste. Thermal paste makes your CPU’s heatsink more efficient, which results in lower temperatures.
All computers get slower over time, and a lot of that slowdown is due to an accumulation of unneeded data. Slim down your hard disk by removing bloatware and getting rid of any unwanted apps, then defrag your drive to give it a fresh start.
Stop overheating and boost performance now
An efficient computer is always going to run smoother, faster, and cooler than one that’s overflowing with junk files and useless software. AVG TuneUp eliminates excess baggage to free your CPU up for the tasks that really matter — keeping temperatures down and performance up, all without any changes to your hardware.